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Bereaved Parents Awareness Month - July

The Power of Peer Support: July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month - Connie Hunter
Worldwide Bereaved Parents Awareness Month - Soldiers'

Losing a Child: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare
The Transformational Effects of Bereavement
Helping Yourself Through Grief
It’s Bereaved Parents Month, Here’s What We Want You To Know
What a Grieving Mom Wants You to Know During Bereaved Parents Month
Everybody Hurts: The State of Mental Health in America
Life After Loss: How to Start Your Grief Journey
What you should say to someone who has lost their child
How to Support a Bereaved Parent
Bereaved Family Support
Long-Term Effects of the Death of a Child on Parents’ Adjustment in Midlife
Bereavement after Suicide

Comprehending Childhood Bereavement by Parental Suicide: A Critical Review of Research on Outcomes, Grief Processes, and Interventions
Bereavement from Suicide as Compared to other Forms of Bereavement
Parental Bereavement After Suicide and Accident: A Comparative Study
Midlife suicide risk, partner’s psychiatric illness, spouse and child bereavement by suicide or other modes of death: a gender specific study



Everybody Hurts: The State of Mental Health in America

Americans are struggling. Crisis Text Line knows why.

Everybody Hurts: The State of Mental Health in America (69 page PDF) is designed to help you understand crisis trends in your state and the United States as a whole. This data— comprised of 129 million message collected from our launch on August 1, 2013 until December 31, 2019—busts myths. Oregon (69 page PDF)

Parental Bereavement After Suicide and Accident: A Comparative Study


In what way is the bereavement process following suicide different from other types of bereavement? The participants were 30 survivors of suicide and 30 survivors of car accidents who were interviewed twice at an average of six months, and the second measure was taken at an average of nine months after the death, with standardized questionnaires to measure depression and grief reaction. Measures of shame, social support, family adaptation, psychological distress, and prior losses were also obtained during the second interview. All survivors were parents who had lost a son aged between 18 and 35 years. The results indicate that suicide survivors were more depressed than accident survivors at the first measure but this difference disappeared at the second measure. Survivors of suicide experienced greater feelings of shame and had experienced more life events after the death than did accident survivors. There was also a greater history of loss in parents bereaved by suicide. Parental bereavement after suicide appears to differ in several ways from other types of bereavement and appears to happen more often in vulnerable families.

Midlife suicide risk, partner’s psychiatric illness, spouse and child bereavement by suicide or other modes of death: a gender specific study


Study objective: To describe gender specific suicide rates associated with partner’s psychiatric disorder, loss of a spouse, or child by suicide or other causes, being a parent, and marital status.

Main results: The suicide risk in women whose partner had been first admitted with a psychiatric disorder after 31 December two years earlier was 6.9 (95% CI 3.6 to 13.0), whereas their male counterpart experienced a risk of 3.9 (2.7 to 5.6); p value gender difference?=?0.39. Men who had lost their partner by suicide or other causes of death experienced a suicide risk of 46.2 (18.3 to 116.4) and 10.1 (6.5 to 15.8), respectively; the analogous risk among women were about one third: 15.8 (6.6 to 37.4) and 3.3 (1.5 to 7.2), respectively. Child bereavement by suicide or other causes imposed an approximate twofold risk increase in their parents, whereas being a parent was protective in women. Except for widows (1.6, 1.2 to 2.0) and widowers (3.0, 2.3 to 3.9) the suicide risk associated with being separated (2.0, 1.8 to 2.3), divorced (1.8, 1.7 to 2.0), never married (1.4, 1.3 to 1.6), cohabitant (1.2, 1.1 to 1.3) was virtually the same in the two sexes.

Conclusions: The suicide risk is associated with partner psychiatric illness. Conjugal bereavement is particularly indicative of suicide in men, and spousal suicide is particularly indicative of suicide. Child bereavement is associated with parental suicide, while being a parent is protective against suicide in women.

Bereavement from Suicide as Compared to other Forms of Bereavement


Bereavement from suicide results in a difficult and complex adjustment for the surviving friends and family members. As compared to other forms of bereavement, suicide survivors are likely to experience more intense grief reactions and may suffer from social rejection and alienation. The present study was designed to compare bereavement from suicide with other forms of bereavement on standardized measures of grief, stress, and social supports. College students who were bereaved during the past five years were classified into five groups based on the cause of death: suicide, homicide, accidental death, natural anticipated death, and natural unanticipated death. All participants provided information about their perceived availability of social support, subjective distress reactions, and grief reactions. Bereavement from suicide was associated with more intense grief reactions than the other four groups. However, the five bereavement groups were similar on most measures of social support and subjective distress reactions. The present results suggest that bereavement from suicide poses added difficulties not seen in other forms of bereavement.

Bereavement after Suicide


The loss of a loved one to death is widely recognized as a challenging stressor event, one that increases risk for the development of many psychiatric conditions. One key risk factor is the mode of death. This article briefly reviews the literature about the impact of suicide as a mode of death on those who are grieving this type of loss, known as suicide survivors. Within suicidology, the term “suicide survivor” has come to refer to a person who is grieving after the suicide of a loved one, not someone who has survived a suicide attempt. This article also describes some of the interventions that may be appropriate for survivors and offers general guidelines for the provision of compassionate bereavement care after a suicide.

Helping Yourself Through Grief

Grief is experienced whenever you lose something important to you. It is so powerful that people sometimes look for ways around it rather than experience it. This approach will not work. The best thing you can do for yourself is to work through grief and express your feelings. The following are specific ways to help yourself work through grief.

Basic Health Concerns

Grief is very tiring and it is important to continue your daily health routines.

  • Eat regular, nourishing meals. If it is too difficult to eat three regular meals, try four or five small ones. Have nourishing food available to nibble on, rather than chips and candy.
  • Get plenty of rest. Try to develop regular bedtime routines. If you are having a hard time getting to sleep, try a glass of warm milk or some soft easy-listening music to soothe your thoughts.
  • Exercise for good health. Continue your exercise program and develop a manageable routine.
  • Meditate to calm and relax your body. Meditation, perhaps in the form of prayer or yoga, can help you get the rest you need.
  • Communicate with your physician. Make sure your family doctor knows what has happened so he or she can help monitor your health.

Outside Support

Grief does not have to be as isolating as it seems.

  • Look for a support group, lecture, or seminar that pertains to your situation.
  • Continue attending church services and stay in contact with this “family”, if that has been a source of support to you.
  • Let your friends and other family members know about your emotional or physical needs. The more they know about what to do to help you, the more available they will be.


Read books or articles on the process of grief so you can identify what you are feeling and have some ideas on how to help yourself.

  • Allow your feelings to be expressed appropriately.
  • Have a good cry. You feel lighter after you have done this. Consider sharing your tears with other loved ones. We laugh together, why not cry together as well?
  • Find friends or family members with whom to share your feelings.
  • Be careful not to use alcohol, drugs, or tranquilizers. These will only mask the pain and could lead to problems.
  • Keep a journal to identify feelings and also to see progress.
  • Plan holidays and anniversaries. They are impossible to ignore. Look for a workshop on dealing with the holidays and make plans with your family and friends.

Be Kind to Yourself

If you want some time alone, take it as often as needed.

  • Reward yourself along the way as something to look forward to.
  • Look for small ways to spoil yourself like a bubble bath, getting new cologne, soft pajamas, or a new haircut.
  • A short trip can be a good break from grief, but know that you get back, the pain of grief will be waiting for you. However, you will have had a rest and have hopefully gained the knowledge that you can enjoy some things in life again.
  • Look for some new interests like a new hobby or trying an old one again.
  • Carry a special letter, poem, or quote with you to read during tough times.
  • Enjoy the good days and don’t feel guilty for doing so.
  • Reach out to help someone else.
  • Learn to have patience with yourself. Remember, it takes time to get better.
  • Know that you WILL get better and there WILL be a time when you can look forward to getting up in the morning and being glad you are alive.

Help for your family relationships

Good communication is necessary. People cannot read your mind. They may not know that a certain day is difficult, or they may not know how to help you.

  • Talk about what is helpful to you and what is not helpful to you.
  • Be aware to the needs of your family. Grief is different for each person.
  • Avoid competition in who is hurting most. Each person will have difficult issues to cope with. Grief is hard for everybody.
  • Think of each other with birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. It is a mistake to hope the holiday will go by unnoticed. Make plans and discuss them.
  • Try not to expect too much from your family. People do not operate at 100 percent during the grieving period. The dishes may not get done or the yard may not be mown as regularly as before. Many chores can wait. Hire someone to help you catch up.
  • Read and educate yourself about the grief process. Go to the library and get an armload of books. Read ones in which you feel the author “is speaking to you” and return the others. Grief books do not need to be read cover to cover. Look for a book with a detailed table of contents that will enable you to select certain sections as you need them.
  • Think about the differences between men and women. Men and women grieve differently. Women are usually more comfortable showing what they feel. Men usually stay busy, focus on work or take on projects at home.
  • Take a short trip to “regroup.” If a child has died, it is very important to acquaint yourself with the new family structure. Getting away from the telephone and memories for a few days can help you do this.
  • Get help, especially if you feel if it is getting in the way with your relationships.

Source: Adapted from an article by Helen Fitzgerald, CDE, Training Director, American Hospice Foundation. Reproduced with permission.

Loss & Grief Overview


“Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” – William Shakespeare

When people are mourning, we think they’ve recently suffered the death of a loved one. But in fact, people mourn many things in addition to a loved one’s death:

  • The end of a relationship
  • The loss of a job
  • A decline in health
  • The loss of something important, such as a home or family heirloom
  • Changes in our families or lives
  • The long absence of a loved one

Mourning can begin before a loss has happened. It can also be during or soon after a loss. It can be many years later. There’s no right or wrong time to start mourning. People begin according to their own needs and their own coping styles. Some people may grieve for a few weeks, a month or many months.

The grieving process includes physical changes. You might mistake these for symptoms of an illness such as:

  • Fatigue or trouble sleeping
  • Weeping
  • Nightmares
  • Body aches or trembling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Gain or loss of weight
  • Tightness in chest or throat
  • Nausea or stomach ache

Key Tips

Key Tip 1

Write about your grief. Write about the person or circumstance you’re mourning. Describe what you’ve lost. Describe how you feel about it. Express your sorrow and pain. Honor the person or object you’ve lost. You may never show your writing to anyone else, but that’s not what it’s for. It can help you through the healing process, even if you never look at it again.

It may help to create a journal or memory book. Gather pictures and other things that remind you of who or what you grieve for. These things can also help you talk about it, which you may want to do now and then. One of the signs of coping with your grief is being able to tell stories about the person you’ve lost. Then instead of feeling upset, you’re able to smile about fond memories.

Key Tip 2

Once you’re ready, take a day off from mourning. Let yourself enjoy the day without feeling guilty. It won’t mean that you’ve forgotten. It’s just that you’re just trying to get your life back together again. You can move on.

Key Tip 3

Turn your thoughts to the future again. Make plans, maybe just for tomorrow at first. Soon you’ll be able to think about what you want to do next week or next month. Think about setting new goals. Or pick up where you left off with old ones that still matter.


Grief is the deepest kind of suffering. It’s brought on by terrible loss, hardship or disaster. Mourning allows us to express some of our grief. It is a normal and important part of healthy living.

No two people will work through a loss in the same way. Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross describes a model of the grieving process that she thinks many people go through. It involves some or all of the following five stages. But not everyone goes through these stages in the same order:

Stage 1: Denial

Denial is often the first line of defense. During this stage, people may say or think things like “This isn’t happening to me” or “This is a nightmare; I want to wake up and have this all go away.” Thoughts like these act as buffers. They allow people time to collect themselves. Still, grieving people probably don’t fully understand what’s just happened. So if they don’t show strong emotions, it’s not a sign they don’t care. It’s a sign of not being able to believe what’s happening.

Stage 2: Anger

At this stage, grieving people look for someone or something to blame: A deceased husband’s job, boss, doctor or anyone else, as a wife tries to make sense of the loss. Grieving people are sure that the death shouldn’t have happened. Somebody is responsible (and perhaps that someone should be punished). Sometimes, someone is truly responsible, such as a drunken driver who kills someone. But sometimes it’s unfounded. (“If he’d had a better doctor, his lung cancer would have been cured.”) Sometimes, people blame God or fate. These are normal reactions. But in most cases they serve little or no useful purpose.

Stage 3: Bargaining and Guilt

We use this stage to “cut a deal.” We bargain with God, fate, doctors or whoever we think can reverse our grief. “Cure my wife’s cancer, and I’ll never cheat on my income taxes again,” a grieving husband will say. He pretends that he has the power do something, anything, to help his wife. Feeling guilt also gives us a sense that we actually have some control over the outcome. If we’re guilty of causing this tragedy, then we should be able to make things right again.

Stage 4: Depression

Once they have worked through the first three stages, people begin to feel grief deeply enough to become depressed. As difficult as this period can get, it’s a sign that mourners are coming to grips with reality. With support from others, they will be able to move on with their lives.

Stage 5: Acceptance

By this final stage, people are willing and able to accept their losses. Now they can begin to forgive themselves and anyone else they “blame,” rightly or wrongly, for the losses they’ve suffered. People who reach this stage often go back to one or more of the previous stages of grief as they continue to work through their losses.

For example, many people experience sudden grief attacks even years after their loss. They are struck with a sudden, vivid reminder of their deceased loved one. Having attacks doesn’t mean people have undone all the work it took to recover. Grief attacks usually end quickly, even though they can be deeply distressing.

People don’t always experience these five stages the same way. You may find that you experience the stages in a different order. You may find that you go through one or more stages more than once. There’s no typical time schedule for when the stages occur or for when the grieving process is completed.


My father died several months ago. All of us miss him terribly. But my mother seems unable to let go of her grief. She sits in his study for most of every day. She hardly ever goes out. She rarely talks to anyone unless she’s spoken to. Should we be getting her some help?

Because everyone grieves differently, there are no ironclad rules that separate normal from abnormal grief. And the sense of mourning can linger for a long time, even in people who are back to their usual daily routines. However, mourning can become obsessive. This may be the case with your mother. If she has any of these conditions, you should help her to see a professional:

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Severe depression; talking about suicide
  • Nothing matters but reminiscing, dreaming, and a total surrender to the trauma
  • Greatly heightened reactions over an extended period of time
  • Total lack of any reaction
  • Feeling too crippled emotionally to carry on everyday activities after a month

    We recently lost our grandmother. But I don’t think the rest of my family is grieving like I am. I’m really angry with them. Why can’t they honor her memory?

Many factors influence how we grieve, for how long, and how intensely. People in the same family won’t grieve in the same way just because they’re related. There are many factors that determine how we grieve:

  • Life experiences
  • Coping style and personality
  • Support system and being prepared for death
  • Relationship with the person mourned

Some people grieve more openly than others. So don’t assume that the rest of your family doesn’t care anymore. They’re all coping in their own ways, just as you are, with a very difficult loss.

Our son was killed in a car accident a month ago. It’s been very hard for us all. But we’re really worried about his younger sister. She keeps asking when he’s coming back. We try to explain why he can’t. Now she’s been carrying around a blanket and sucking her thumb. She stopped doing this two years ago. Should we get counseling for her?

Young children usually don’t understand death. They don’t grieve the same way adults do. Children sometimes fear that something they did brought on the death of someone close like a brother. If she’s said anything like this, don’t dismiss her concerns. Talk to her about them. You might even say that sometimes you’re afraid that you might feel the same way. But then you realize that death is something we can’t control or command.

Children often use baby talk or do other things that we thought they’d grown out of when someone they love dies. It’s probably a way of reaching out for more comfort and refuge at a time when they and their families are grieving.

Your daughter will probably continue to ask questions. She might talk about her brother’s death for some time to come. Be open to what she has to say. Speak honestly about what you’re feeling. Let her know that you understand her sorrow and fears. Above all, keep showing your love for her. Make sure she understands that you’re hurting, too. Then together you can start to heal.

My parents and I had a terrible time deciding whether or not to have a funeral for my sister. I was against it. I don’t believe in grieving publicly. Why do people want to have funerals?

Many people find funerals a key part of coping with the death of a loved one. The rituals of mourning seem to provide comfort. Having friends and family there can help those who are deeply grieving. But some people don’t want to mourn in public. That’s perfectly acceptable, too. Try to understand your parents’ wishes in this case. Losing a daughter is an especially difficult loss.

I know it’s important to attend funerals. It shows your support and honors the dead. But I always feel so uncomfortable. I never know what to say. Can you help?

When someone you care about is mourning, it’s hard to know what to do or say. But just by being there, you can help. You can listen carefully, acknowledge his loss, and respond genuinely. Don’t worry about what’s “right” to say. Even if you say something like “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I think of you often and I care,” you can provide some real comfort.

You can talk about the deceased. You can remember how much you loved hearing about her love for racehorses. Or you can say how much he meant to you as you were growing up. Someone in mourning can draw real comfort from knowing how much their loved one meant to others.


Web Sites

  • Online support groups, memorials and resources can be found at:
  • Widows and widowers can find information about grief and bereavement at:
  • The Compassionate Friends provides support for bereaved parents and siblings; visit:


  • Akner, Lois and Catherine Whitney, How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide for Adults. Quill, 1994.
  • Davis, Deborah L., Ph.D., Empty Cradle, Broken Heart. Fulcrum Publishing, 1996.
  • Fitzgerald, Helen, The Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping With All Aspects of Death and Dying. Fireside, 1995.
  • Fitzgerald, Helen, and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, The Grieving Child: A Parent’s Guide. Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • Friedman, Rochelle, and Bonnie Gradstein, Surviving Pregnancy Loss: a Complete Sourcebook for Women and Their Families. Citadel Press, 1996.
  • Kluger-Bell, Kim, Unspeakable Losses: Understanding the Experience of Pregnancy Loss, Miscarriage and Abortion. W.W. Norton, 1998.
  • Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth, On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. Simon & Schuster, 1997.
  • Rando, Therese A., How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies. Bantam, 1991.
  • Sheehy, Gail, Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. Bantam, 1977.

What To Do When A Loved One Dies

It’s not something we like to think about. It’s not something we plan for. But we have to deal with it when it happens. What do we do when a loved one dies? What needs to be taken care of? What important decisions must you make? The loss of a friend or family member is always hard. These tips will help you get ready for what lies ahead. They will also help you handle everything you must do.

During the First Moments?

The first moments after death might be very hard. You want to see that your loved one’s wishes are met. You also should see to your own needs. You might want to say goodbye before the body is taken away.

  • It is ok to take your time with the body if your loved one dies at home. Call the doctor or 911. Medical workers will pronounce death. They will move the body to a hospital. They may take it to a morgue. They may take it to a funeral home.
  • Tell a nurse or doctor if you are in a hospital. They will pronounce death. They will have the body moved. It may be harder to spend time alone with the body. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you want time.

Making Medical Decisions

  • Talk with the doctor about why your loved one died.
  • Decide if an autopsy needs to be done. An autopsy is usually needed if there are questions about cause of death. The next of kin or a surviving spouse can ask for one. It may cost money.
  • Decide whether any organs or tissues will be donated. Organ donation can be set before death. It can also be set at the time of death. Tissue donation can be approved after death.

Look Into Pre-Plans

Did your loved one already make plans for a funeral? Did they put their burial wishes in writing? You need to find the answers to the following questions:

  • Is there a letter with contacts?
  • Is there a letter telling you where to find important papers?
  • Has a funeral home been picked?
  • Has a cemetery been picked?
  • Did they wish for a burial or cremation?
  • What type of service did they want?
  • Were any plans already paid for?

Contact a Funeral Home or Provider

You do not have to use a funeral home. It is very common in the United States. Experienced funeral directors can be very helpful. Cremation services can also be set. You can get local referrals. You can also use the following:

The following information about the deceased is needed for a death certificate:

  • name
  • home address
  • telephone number
  • How long have they lived in state
  • gender
  • race
  • job information
  • social security number
  • veteran’s administration claim number
  • driver’s license number
  • passport number
  • citizenship
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • information about death
  • name of parents
  • parents birthplace
  • membership in organizations
  • marital status
  • cause of death
  • Autopsy performed
  • survivors’ names
  • survivors’ contact information

Handle Urgent Matters

You need to reach out to friends and family. You need to review your loved one’s day-to-day situation.

  • Tell Others
    This is a good way to get support. Share what needs to be done with those closest to you. Let people help you. It will help them deal with their own grief. Make a list of those that need to be told about the death.
  • Take Care of Dependents
    Help to find care for any dependents.
  • Deal With Property Matters
    Make sure that all bills are paid. Find care for any pets. Find someone to take care of the house. Have someone pick up the mail. Stop newspaper delivery. You may want to take anything worth a lot of money out of the house.
  • Cancel Services
    Be sure to cancel any services such as meals-on-wheels, home health aides or volunteers. Find a calendar and cancel any appointments the deceased made before they died.
  • Find Important Documents
    Find these as soon as possible
    • will or living trust
    • birth certificate (or legal proof of age)
    • social security card
    • marriage license (and divorce papers)
    • citizenship papers
    • insurance policies (life, health & accident, automobile, property)
    • bank books
    • financial records
    • deeds
    • tiles to property
    • car title
    • car registration
    • income tax returns
    • income tax records
    • veterans discharge certificate
    • disability claims
    • cemetery plot
    • memorial park certificate

Make Funeral Plans

Funeral homes have different plans and services. Some funerals with a casket can cost from six thousand to ten thousand dollars. Most funeral providers suggest buying packages. Some laws say that funeral directors have to list out all information about their services.

Some decisions that need to be made about a service include:

  • Who will pay for the service?
  • What religious or family traditions should be followed?
  • Will there be a burial or cremation?
  • Will the body be embalmed? This is not a law.
  • What clothing will the deceased be wearing in the casket?
  • Should anything be buried with the body?
  • Will the casket be open or closed?
  • Will there be a viewing at the funeral home?
  • Will there be calling hours at the funeral home?
  • Will there be a funeral or memorial service? What will be involved?
  • What should go into an obituary or paid death notice for local papers?
  • Find out if there are any other publications which should get the obituary.
  • Should flowers be encouraged?
  • Should donations instead of flowers be encouraged? If donations, call the charity of choice to arrange details.
  • What sort of special touches might you bring to any services? Consider music, art or photographs.
  • What will you wear for the services?

For a copy of the free on-line publication “Funerals: A Consumer Guide,” contact the Federal Trade Commission at or call 1-877-382-4357.

Complete Required Paperwork

You need to stay organized. Keep track of all the paperwork. Let someone else be in charge of keeping the records if you are not good with organization. Make a list of those who should get thank-you notes in the months ahead.

  • Death Certificates - The funeral director will usually get the death certificate. Get 10-25 certified copies of the death certificate for your use.
  • The Will - Contact either the executor named in the will or the attorney. Let them handle any legal matters. If there is no will, the process will depend on the state laws. The deceased’s spouse, partner or a close family member should call an attorney. Go to the county courthouse to have an executor named.
  • Social Security - Social Security benefits information can be found at
    • Let Social Security know of the death. Call 1-800-772-1213.
    • Stop any payments made to the bank with direct deposit. Do not cash any checks received for the month of death. Do not cash any checks you get after. Send any checks not cashed to Social Security.
    • A spouse or child can get a one-time payment to help cover funeral costs.
    • Spouses can apply for survivor’s benefits.
    • A domestic partner should check state laws to see what you can get.
  • In the days after a death:
  • Veteran’s Military Benefits - Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 for information about financial assistance and burial services. You can also visit
  • Active Peace Officers & Military - Contact local representatives for more benefits.
  • Insurance Policies & Employer Benefits - Check all insurance policies for any death benefits. Contact deceased’s employer for:
    • life insurance
    • paychecks
    • retirement plans
    • pension
    • IRAs
    • stock options
    • continuing medical coverage for dependents
  • Other Benefits - Check for possible benefits for dependents through:
    • social or fraternal organizations
    • unions
    • mortgage companies
    • credit cards which offer life and accidental death insurance
    • frequent flyer programs which often allow transfer of mileage

Final To-Dos

Other important matters need to be taken care of.

  • Contact Your Attorney
    Any assets and titles to vehicles and property must be legally transferred. This is usually done as part of the estate settlement. Do not pay any of the deceased’s debts. Consult first with the estate executor or an attorney. The executor should file the necessary forms with the post office.
  • Contact Your Accountant or Tax Advisor for:
    • filing taxes
    • putting together a budget
    • valuing assets
    • listing any debts
  • Contact Your Bank - Open individual checking and savings accounts in your name.
  • Locate Deceased’s Safe Deposit Box(es) - Check individual state laws regarding access.
  • Contact Insurance Agents - Change policies and beneficiaries for all policies.
  • Contact Credit Card Companies - Cancel individual credit cards. Don’t take the deceased’s name from joint accounts for 6 months.
  • Contact All Home Utilities - Make sure all utilities are in your name.
  • Update Your Will & Make Your Own Pre-Plans - Use this time to update your own will regarding beneficiaries. Write a letter of intent about your wishes after death.

Selling a Home

The will should tell you what should happen to the house. That includes everything in the house. Going through everything may be painful. It can also bring back happy memories.

Keep in mind these tips:

  • Ask someone to watch over the project.
  • Separate all the tasks.
  • Sort items into groups for charity, sale, family and friends.
  • Contact charities to pick up all donated items.
  • Sell valuables or antiques through an estate sale.
  • Have a garage sale for fewer items worth less money.
  • Think about using an online auction site if there are a small number of items.
  • Hire someone to help if it is too much for you to handle.

How To Deal With Grief

Grief is the normal response that comes from losing someone or something important to you. It is a natural part of life. Grief is a reaction to death. It can be a reaction to divorce. It can also be a reaction to job loss.

How Does Grief Feel?

You may feel empty after a death or a loss. You are in shock. You may notice physical changes such as trembling or nausea. You may have trouble breathing or dry mouth. Your muscles may be weak. You may have trouble sleeping and eating.

You may become angry – at a situation, a particular person, or just angry in general. Almost everyone in grief also experiences guilt. Guilt is often expressed as “I could have, I should have, and I wish I would have” statements.

People in grief may have strange dreams or nightmares, be absent-minded, withdraw socially, or lack the desire to return to work. While these feelings and behaviors are normal during grief, they will pass.

How Long Does Grief Last?

Grief lasts as long as it takes you to accept and learn to live with your loss. For some people, grief lasts a few months. For others, grieving may take years.

The length of time spent grieving is different for each person. There are many reasons for the differences, including personality, health, coping style, culture, family background, and life experiences. The time spent grieving also depends on your relationship with the person lost and how prepared you were for the loss.

How Will I Know When I’m Done Grieving?

Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four-step grieving process:

  • Accept the loss;
  • Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief;
  • Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost; and
  • Move on with life.

The grieving process is over only when a person completes the four steps.

How Does Grief Differ from Depression?

Depression is more than a feeling of grief after losing someone or something you love. Clinical depression is a whole body disorder. It can take over the way you think and feel. Symptoms of depression include:

  • A sad, anxious, or “empty” mood that won’t go away;
  • Loss of interest in what you used to enjoy;
  • Low energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down;”
  • Changes in sleep patterns;
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss, or weight gain;
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions;
  • Feeling hopeless or gloomy;
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless;
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or a suicide attempt; and
  • Recurring aches and pains that don’t respond to treatment.

If you recently experienced a death or other loss, these feelings may be part of a normal grief reaction. But if these feelings persist with no lifting mood, ask for help.

Moving Through Grief

You Know You’re Getting Better When…

The grief process is so slow. It’s often a “one-step forward and two-steps backwards” motion. It is hard to see signs of improvement. The following are clues that will help you to see that you are beginning to work through your grief. You know you are getting better when:

  • You are in touch with the finality of death. You now know in your heart that your loved one is truly gone and will never return to this earth.
  • You can review both pleasant and unpleasant memories. In early grief, memories are painful because they remind you of how much you have lost. Now it feels good to remember, and you look for people with whom to share memories.
  • You can enjoy time alone and feel comfortable. You no longer need to have someone with you all the time or look for activities to keep you occupied.
  • You can drive somewhere by yourself without crying the whole time. The automobile seems to be a place where many people cry, which can be dangerous for you and other drivers.
  • You are less sensitive to some of the comments people make. You realize that painful comments made by family or friends are made in ignorance.
  • You look forward to holidays. Once-dreaded occasions can now be anticipated with excitement, perhaps through returning to old traditions or creating new ones.
  • You can reach out to help someone else in a similar situation. It is consoling to be able to use your experience to help others.
  • The music you shared with the one you lost is no longer painful to hear. Now, you may even find it comforting.
  • You can sit through a church service without crying.
  • Some time passes in which you have not thought of your loved one. When this first happens, you may panic, thinking, “I am forgetting.” This is not true. You will never forget. You are giving yourself permission to go on with your life and your loved one would want you to do this.
  • You can enjoy a good joke and have a good laugh without feeling guilty.
  • You?re eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns return to what they were beforehand.
  • You no longer feel tired all the time.
  • You have started a routine in your daily life that does not include your loved one.
  • You can concentrate on a book or favorite television program. You can even remember information you have just read or viewed.
  • You no longer have to make daily or weekly trips to the cemetery. You now feel comfortable going once in a while.
  • You can find something to appreciate. You see the good things going on in your life.
  • You can start new and healthy relationships. New friends are now part of your life and you enjoy spending time with them.
  • You feel confident again. You are in touch with your new identity. You have a stronger sense of what you are going to do with the rest of your life.
  • You can organize and plan your future.
  • You can accept things as they are and not keep trying to return things to what they were.
  • You have patience with yourself through “grief attacks.” You know they are becoming further apart and less frightening and painful.
  • You look forward to getting up in the morning.
  • You stop to smell the flowers along the way. You enjoy experiences in life that are meant to be enjoyed.
  • The vacated roles that your loved one filled in your life are now being filled by yourself or others. When a loved one dies he or she leaves many “holes” in your life. Now those holes are being filled with other people and activities. Some will stay empty. You are more at ease with these changes.
  • You can take the energy and time spent thinking about your loss and put those energies elsewhere. You may help others in similar situations or make concrete plans with your own life.
  • You acknowledge your new life and even discover personal growth from experiencing grief.

The Power of Peer Support: July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month - Connie Hunter

During the summer of 2019, a study was done before this pandemic by “Amerispeak” and “WebMD”, found that 57% of Americans are grieving the loss of someone close in the last three years—so, every other person you see is grieving –– grief never really goes away.

In 2020, the coronavirus is bringing loss to many more American doorsteps. And...Everyone’s personal grief journey will be different and it will be different for every person, pet, or deep connection you lose. There is no end date…There is no specific stage you should be at.

All there is, is how you feel, how you grieve as time passes, and how you cope. And in the coping phase, friends and family can be incredibly helpful. Of course, they can be incredibly unhelpful as well.

July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month ( As a parent who has lost a child, I know how lived experience and anecdotal information can provide a lifeline for those who are in deep emotional pain from losing a child.

My son, Jason Christopher, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease just as he turned age 13. In the next months and few years, he went through so much. He was a fighter… 18 hospitalizations and 13 surgeries including a kidney transplant (in which I was the live donor).

Because of the way the disease manifests in an adolescent body, when Jason tried to grow, his legs became severely knock-kneed.—so knock-kneed that they crossed in the center… and had to be surgically fractured and straightened. Through a series of wheelchairs, metal stabilizing bars, braces and casts, his legs were straightened.

Even while his legs were severely knock-kneed, or in various stages of being straightened, Jason took Country swing dance lessons. He marched on the state Capitol in Arizona with his best friend, who happened to be black, to fight institutional racism. He even ran in the track and field relay races at his school for which he received a standing ovation.

Prior to his diagnosis, Jason was a fantastic swimmer—the youngest person, at that time, to ever compete doing the breaststroke and other complicated swimming on the city team.

At age 11, Jason attended a Christian school, and the Christian schools had a state-wide spelling bee. He came in third place. The truth is, there was a judging error and he was knocked out incorrectly, it was recognized later that this was an error. Although he was disappointed, Jason did not hold a grudge. Jason let me know he was ready for the next year… but that would be the year he was diagnosed.

Jason completed high school at age 15 and attended Scottsdale Community College at age 16. He insisted on having a part-time job at a movie theater, he was a volunteer for numerous organizations including becoming a volunteer at a nursing home.

The family tradition of volunteerism took hold… and even Sergeant John “Kyle” Daggett, his first cousin, before he was in the military (and even while he was stationed in Iraq), volunteered at nursing homes, as this was documented in the Washington Post after Kyle was KIA.

It is a very, very high likelihood that the birth defects that Jason had (and we were trying to correct) were a result of his father’s military service’s Agent Orange exposure.

Jason had a laugh that was the most infectious laugh… I have a niece, Cara Phillips, who has that same kind of laugh… when I hear it I feel joy and sorrow but way more joy.

Our relationship was built on honesty, laughter, and a sincere effort to let each other know that they were appreciated. A week before Jason passed away was Mother’s Day. Jason had saved money from his job to buy a bike for himself but he also, secretly, bought a bike for me. He had planned on giving it to me on Mother’s was stored at our neighbor’s house, but Jason couldn’t wait… On the Saturday night before Mother’s Day, we paid a visit to the neighbor’s and he surprised me. On Mother’s Day we went on a long bike ride. A week later, I would be making the decision to turn off Jason’s life support.

The heaviest burden that I ever faced was the day I had to make that decision. Afterword, a family member told me that I had taken the choice out of God’s hands. Survivor’s guilt haunted me for years…it was a Gold Star mother who mentored me with my grief. She had lost her son in Vietnam. I told our grief group about how I was suffering from that decision. She said to me, I would have given anything to be there with my son in his last moments. That’s the power of a peer support group—the gift of immediate new perspective!

Grief support for me included grief therapy (one on one with two different talk therapists—the first therapist had terminal cancer) both rendering a PTSD diagnosis for me. In my work with Veterans, I often say Veterans work with me. Because understanding PTSD of combat veterans and other military specialties, and moral injuries such as military sexual trauma, I have learned a lot about managing PTSD even though theirs is different from mine.

When a person loses a family member, they become vulnerable. Without the support that I needed in both group therapy, talk therapy, and in peer-mentor relationships established in grief support groups, I would not still be standing today. During my most vulnerable times, I experienced much support but I also experienced a predator during this long healing journey. That made things even more difficult.

My son and I had a favorite song, “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen. In the song, the lyrics talk about perseverance and overcoming hardships. There is a line, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”. One day I’ll tell that whole story… but we would shout “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”… and in my grief process this song helps me cope with survivors’ guilt.

Survivors’ guilt has been a struggle because we keep losing the young ones in my family. That is my trigger. My nephew, Kyle, was killed in Iraq...a niece by marriage who died of kidney disease also related to her father’s Agent Orange exposure,...a nephew by marriage who died in a motorcycle accident three days before joining the Marines...and, just very recently, four young family members were lost in a car crash—ages 35, 16, 7, and 5.

Processing grief is never easy. But I promise you, or anyone who is newly bereaved, as hard as it is right now… there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there… Get the support you deserve and need… and there are people like me who are willing to remind you, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”


Helping Yourself Through Grief -

24/7 Crisis Lines - Phone: 800-273-8255; Text SOS to 741741

The Compassionate Friends – Due to COVID-19 state restrictions, TCF is not able to meet at the library. The current meeting location is the Event Center located between Feather Your Nest and Tangles, Brookings. Monthly: 1st Tuesday of every month, 6:30 To 8:00 P.M. More info-- contact Georgia, 541-469-5814

Badlands by Bruce Springsteen:

Wasington Post - Sgt. John "Kyle" Daggett


Crisis Text Line - Text "SOS" to 741741

Alliance of Hope for suicide loss survivors

Grief in General -- Introductory material on bereavement

Suicide Grief Primer -- An overview of grief after suicide

Hand to Hold Bereavement Resources


Suicide Grief Websites -- Comprehensive sites focused on suicide bereavement

Suicide Grief Materials -- Booklets, handouts ... about grief after suicide

Online Assistance -- Interactive help available online

Support Groups -- Information about group support for people bereaved by suicide

Special Populations -- For bereaved parents, people of color, peer helpers, clinicians ...

Bereaved Children -- Items for suicide bereaved children, plus children's grief in general

Military/Vets/Families -- Resources for bereaved military, veterans, and their families

Schools/Workplaces -- Best practices for community, work, school responses to suicide

Communities -- Postvention training and principles for communities

Helping Others -- Principles, theories, guidance on assisting the suicide bereaved

Children's Caregivers -- Guidance on helping children bereaved by suicide

First Responders -- Guidance for law enforcement, LOSS Teams 

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